For the win, as the kids say. I’ve got the certificate and the pin. I have emerged.
It’s more like leveling up in an RPG or PVP. Congratulations elven mage! You have earned the requisite number of hit points. Here are more skill points to spend in the areas you see fit. Also, have some tokens and gold.
All joking aside, it went well. I’ve taken video of our poster session on the Flip camera I borrowed from IT. Now I just have to figure out how to upload it. That may have to wait until I’ve come home. I love the Flip, though, and will be saving up for one asap.
The bulk of today’s workshops were spent reflecting on our experience, what we’ve learned, and where we’ll go from here, so I thought I’d touch on those elements briefly.
The EL Project Experience
I deliberately chose a project that was not in an area I normally work in: marketing. It’s something I’m very interested in, but don’t get nearly enough of an opportunity to dabble with. The group’s task was to re-prioritize the marketing plan for LibraryCareers.org . The original marketing plan was created by a prior Emerging Leaders’ group in 2007; our task was to reassess their work, in light of the time that had passed, and re-rank their priorities. Of course, being the overachievers that we collectively are, we decided that it would be cool to actually start some of the tasks and try a few things. You can read all about our work at our project page on the EL wiki.
If you’re cynical, you might be asking yourself, “Er, why are we trying to encourage people to become librarians right now?” Even I can’t candycoat the notion that, in the short term, things aren’t looking so hot. I, however, am committed to library science for the long haul. People will be needed to keep libraries going. Fewer people, probably, I”ll grant you. But if that’s the case, then we want the absolute best and brightest. Anyone who would like to engage in a spirited discussion on those points is cordially invited to comment. You might want to check out my comments on librarians’ salaries, too, in my report – we have a LONG way to go, and we should NOT stop fighting for better pay However, we HAVE made progress. The data is there. It just needs to be organized and presented in a comparative fashion, so folks can see the gains, however modest.
What I’ve Learned
This is, I think, the part that doesn’t mesh neatly with what the program’s creators intended.
I applied for Emerging Leaders during a very challenging period of my life. I had just experienced two very personal losses, and my confidence was at ebb tide. I was engaging in what has been a habitual pattern for me: trying to compensate for personal difficulties with yet another professional success. I thought that if I could just Be More Brilliant (patent pending), it wouldn’t matter quite so much that I had failed so miserably in other areas of my life.
This project, while utterly fabulous, turned out to be the assignment that convinced me I had to take better care of myself, or I was going to burn out in a hurry. Between my normal project workload, the slowly blossoming library budget crisis, and the larger-than-expected enrollment in 23 Things ‘N @, the last thing I needed was one more project. And yet, I had taken it on.
So, basically, I had two choices. I could quit, or I could figure out once and for all how to take better care of myself so that I would have the strength to deliver on all the promises I’d made.
I started with sleep. 8 hours, whether I needed it or not, every night. That was a habit that took a while to build, but I could feel the difference once I’d created it. LAV with adequate sleep is so much more effective than LAV without sleep.
Next, diet and exercise. I’ve been vegetarian for about 1.5 years, and have been cutting back on dairy to see if I can transition to a vegan diet and still be healthy. I made a new rule for myself: I have to either walk TO work or walk home FROM work – no exceptions, no excuses. And I began a yoga practice that began paying off almost immediately, especially since it’s mostly restorative yoga – the last thing I needed was one more activity where I was striving instead of nurturing.
The next step was to add more fun things back into my life, so that I was more than my job. This was really really hard for me. I’m so very much in love with what I do, and it’s really easy for me to take on more and more library work–both paid and volunteer–because it means so much to me. But other things mean a lot to me, too, and I’d been skimping on them to the point that, when I started adding them back, I didn’t realized how much I’d missed them.
So, I’m writing a lot more now. Plays mostly, some poems. I’ve entered some of my work in a short play festival – I’ll let you know how that turns out – and I’ll be starring in a play a friend wrote, to fulfill a theater residency he won. I’ve become seriously artsy-craftsy, both at things I already enjoyed, like needlework and decoupage, and things I’d never tried before, like painting and drawing.
The result of all this personal tinkering is that I’m a lot more interesting to be around, I think. I’m also a much more effective librarian: I’m managing my time better, getting things done more efficiently and effectively, and taking a lot more of the normal daily stress and drama in stride (those of you who miss the dramatic goat farm declarations will be reassured to hear that they haven’t vanished entirely). I feel a million times more confident than I ever have, because I’ve gone a long way toward solving the biggest problem I face: how to balance LAV the fiercely brilliant and creative librarian with LAV the ridiculously lovable, comically flawed human being who, like everyone else on this dotty blue planet, is simply trying to make her way the best she can.
So, now what?
That’s a good question. I honestly feel now like I could do absolutely anything. So what do I want?
I”m pretty happy where I am, doing what I’m doing. Pittsburgh rocks, Washington press corps snickering aside. I’d like to stay here for the next 40 years, work my way up the food chain, and get the big gold watch when I finally retire. It remains to be seen whether or not the economy will support this endeavor.
That being said, what I really want to do, regardless of what titles I may hold or official responsibilities I may have, is to create environments where people can be their best selves. I want to help people become the best they can be. I want to help them achieve their goals and then to go beyond those goals to tap potential theydon’t even realize they have. I want to inspire, motivate, and induce side-splitting laughter when appropriate. I want to be a good listener, the kind of person a colleague can come to when s/he needs advice. I want to call shenanigans on bad behavior and take concrete steps to make it better.
Mostly, though, I want to be a good person, ethical and fair, kind and wise and loving. If you can do that, I reckon, everything else falls into place exactly where it should be.
And with that, having discharged my official conference duties, I”m exercising the right not to blog. I’m going to visit the exhibits, and see some panels, and attend some meetings, and reunite with classmates and old friends, and talk to random people on shuttles and in coffeeshops in the hopes of making new connections. I’m going to walk around Chicago and soak up its utter fabulosity, and I’m going to start memorizing my lines for my play.
Mostly, though, I’m going to enjoy having emerged. I make rather the fetching butterfly, if I do say so myself.
I’ll fight wih that video footage next week. Take care, and be well.
the incorrigible alchemist